New Single Injection Stem Cell Treatment May be a "Cure" for Asthma and Allergies to Bees, Peanuts, Seafood

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Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed a new single injection stem cell treatment which may be a “cure” for asthma and allergies to bees, peanuts, seafood and other allergens which activate an immune response and cause severe difficulty breathing.

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A mother’s worse nightmare is hearing her child gasping for breath. Imagine a single injection treatment that could completely “cure” asthma and eliminate allergic responses for a lifetime by changing the gene within ‘T’ cells which react to proteins in peanuts, seafood, and in bee venom.

In people who have allergies or asthma, the ‘T’ cells have developed a kind of immune ‘memory’ and have become resistant to treatment. Patients with asthma and allergies usually experience chronic respiratory problems and the potential of death due to anaphylaxis is very real. Allergic asthma affects approximately 235 million people worldwide.

Scientists working in gene therapy have taken blood stem cells and altered or wiped clean the ‘memory’ within the ‘T’ cell so they no longer respond to an allergen. As these new cells reproduce their cellular offspring are also free of the allergic ‘memory’ response meaning the new healthy cells only produce healthy cells that are non-reactive.

“When you are exposed to an allergy early in life you tend to be more likely to have an allergic response,” says Associate Professor Ray Steptoe, Diamantina Institute, University of Queensland, “and with each subsequent exposure the response gets bigger and bigger. What we’ve done is to interrupt that process and by altering the gene we can turn off that response. What that means is the disease is stopped in its tracks.”

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Associate Professor Ray Steptoe from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.

“Current approaches to this disease really use drugs that limit side effects, limit acute symptoms,” says Steptoe, “but what we do is stop the underlying disease.”

Steptoe believes the technology will revolutionize the treatment of severe allergies and prevent life-threatening allergic episodes by just getting one single shot of the altered blood stem cells. While this treatment has worked in mice it is not yet ready for use in humans and may take as long as 5 or 6 years before clinical trials in humans could begin and another 5 years of human trials.

“One of the things that would really accelerate this research,” adds Steptoe, “would be to obtain additional research funding.”

The study was published in JCI Institute June, 2, 2017.

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